Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Tired? Stressed? You’ll feel better on fecal matter

Warm, brown and gooey; no unfortunately I am not describing a beautiful chocolate dessert, I am however describing a new form of medicine… poop. Poop, it’s stinky, brown and flat out not that appealing, so why would anyone ever suggest consuming something that just came out of another person. Well Fecal Microbiota Transplant is giving a completely new meaning to the ‘bitter pill’, but what is it and is consuming fecal matter really helping us at all?

dessert

If you’ve ever found yourself in need of antibiotics to get over a really nasty bacterial infection, you may or may not of known that those antibiotics not only kill unwanted, harmful bacteria but also bacteria that is beneficial to your body. Which, leaves your body vulnerable to some other nasty infections that your ‘good’ bacteria would of otherwise protected you from.  When antibiotics are introduced to the body they alter the normal bacterial flora of your intestine and thereby reduce the resistance to the colonisation of opportunistic pathogens which would otherwise remain dormant due to the presence of beneficial bacteria. This in turn can have some relatively uncomfortable effects on your body such diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting; thrush for women is often a common side effect, however the side effects of greatest concern are those that come about due to the presence of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). C. difficile  is a bacterium that is usually found living passively in the intestines of many individuals along with many other types of bacteria, however the introduction of antibiotics means that C. difficile is able to thrive and multiply potentially causing Clostridium difficile colitis.

Clostridium difficile colitis is the inflammation of the large intestine and is a common cause of diarrhoea, this at a glance seems relatively harmless but over the years Clostridium difficile infection has become more prevalent in the USA and Europe and more aggressive in it’s ability to withstand standard treatment. Clostridium difficile infection is usually treated with antibiotics, however new strains of C. difficile  have become resistant to traditional treatments making it harder to treat C. difficile . This infection in older and more susceptible individuals can cause hospitalisation over a prolonged period of time and in some cases death, with statistics from an article from the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases displaying that death certificates indicating Clostridium difficile infection as a primary or contributory cause of death has increased by about 50% in Sweden. So with standard treatments becoming less and less successful this is where the poop comes into play (please do not play with poop).

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There are two ways you can approach faecal microbiota transplantation; faeces from a healthy donor (spouse or close relative) is collected and it is either crafted into a tablet and then ingested or introduced to the body via the other hole… Okay its a little more complicated then that but it isn’t any bit less disgusting. In technical terms Fecal microbiota transplantation is the transfer of fecal material containing bacteria and natural antibacterials from a healthy individual into a unhealthy recipient and it appears to be working! A paper in the Journal Of Digestive Diseases has stated that case reports and small case series suggest that recurrent Clostridium difficile infection can be cured with a single treatment. In a study from the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 31 test patients which had been suffering from  Clostridium difficile infection displayed a response rate of 74% in patients treated with faecal transplantation.

So it looks like this treatment isn’t just a load of crap… Faecal microbiota transplantation has some strong evidence behind it, and with the use of antibiotics becoming more common  it looks like this mode of recovery is only going to get bigger and bigger.

So would you ever try this treatment?

References

Brown, WR 2014, ‘Fecal microbiota transplantation in treating Clostridium difficile infection’, Journal Of Digestive Diseases, 15, 8, pp. 405-408, MEDLINE Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 May 2016.

Day, J 2016, Fecal Transplantation (Bacteriotherapy): Johns Hopkins Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology,<http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/clinical_services/advanced_endoscopy/fecal_transplantation.html&gt;

Emanuelsson, F, Claesson, B, Ljungström, L, Tvede, M, & Ung, K 2014, ‘Faecal microbiota transplantation and bacteriotherapy for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection: A retrospective evaluation of 31 patients’, Scandinavian Journal Of Infectious Diseases, 46, 2, pp. 89-97, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 May 2016.

Thefecaltransplantfoundation.org., 2016, What is FMT?:  The Fecal Transplant Foundation, <http://thefecaltransplantfoundation.org/what-is-fecal-transplant/&gt;

 

 

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One comment on “Tired? Stressed? You’ll feel better on fecal matter

  1. jessthepharmacygirl
    May 8, 2016

    Something I never expected to read, yet I couldn’t stop – what a strange concept.

    What I am curious about, is how this treatment would differ in results to that of probiotics? Given with and after antibiotics, probiotics are constantly recommended to assist in this replacement of the ‘good’ bacteria, so what is most effective? It’s a given that Fecal microbiota transplantation may be a less desired route of getting better, but do the benefits outweigh the squirmish thought that the individual is absorbing another’s waste? I would love to research further into this, to see if there is a reality of it becoming a viable mainstream option in the future when visiting the GP for such issues.

    My other curiosity lies in the understanding that fecal matter is loaded with bad bacteria that is expelled from the body due to it’s harmful nature: I can only assume there is a process of separating the two types of bacteria? The diagram pictured does not suggest this, which makes me wonder if there are any risks associated with this type of treatment. Such a high success rate of 74% provides positive hope, however in such a small study sample along with such a new concept as I found at http://thefecaltransplantfoundation.org/news/ in which the earliest study was in 2014, I feel that more research may be required to ensure all possibilities are eradicated!

    Thanks for giving me such a great topic to read, it certainly gave me some insight into alternative medicine: I’ve realised that my scope of medicine is fairly narrow and sticks to what is available on the shelf.

    Like

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This entry was posted on May 8, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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